Tag Archives: Yvonne Gilbert

Murder, Margaret & Me

★★

Churchill Theatre Bromley & UK Tour

Murder, Margaret & Me

Murder, Margaret & Me

Churchill Theatre Bromley

Reviewed – 27th September 2019

★★

 

“maintains what can only be described as a majestic pace throughout”

 

In Murder, Margaret and Me by Philip Meeks, and produced by Tilted Wig Productions, mystery writer Agatha Christie turns sleuth as she attempts to discover tragedy, and a murder, buried in the childhood of film star Margaret Rutherford. It sounds like an intriguing idea for a play, and playwright Meeks sets up Murder, Margaret and Me as a three hander for “women of a certain age” as he puts it in the programme. Based on true facts about Christie and Rutherford, this play even has all the elements of glamour one would expect in a story about a bestselling author, a film star and an ever-knitting hanger-on (who, as a devoted fan, keeps the action moving along).

Set in 1962, Murder, Margaret and Me opens on a film set in Pinewood Studios as Christie discovers that she and Rutherford have very different ideas about how Christie’s character Miss Marple should be played. In a ruthless attempt to wrest control of her creation back from Rutherford and her Hollywood producers, Christie sets out on a mission to discover all she can about Rutherford and what really lurks behind the beloved star’s eccentric public persona. Of course, Christie herself has a few skeletons buried inside her closet, and as the play proceeds, we get tantalising clues about those as well.

This is such rich material, and it is presented to us by the gifted cast of Lin Blakley (as Christie), Sarah Parks (as Rutherford) and Gilly Tompkins (as The Spinster). Director Damian Cruden does solid work, as do designers Dawn Allsopp and Richard G Jones. The costumes, supervised by Molly Syrett, give an appropriate sense of period. But if audiences come expecting to be held on the edge of their seats in the same way that Christie holds us in her novels, they will be disappointed.

Murder, Margaret and Me maintains what can only be described as a majestic pace throughout. While this gives the audience ample time to reflect on how artistic rivalries can ultimately poison a blossoming friendship, it does not create the sense of suspense and excitement that usually accompanies this kind of subject matter. Despite the witty dialogue and engaging characters, Meeks takes too long to bring all the elements of his plot together. Furthermore, there are some elements that are not well integrated, such as at the opening of the second half, where a before the curtain address to the audience gives advice on how to keep your man. (Christie advises marrying an archaeologist since “the older you get, the more interested in you he becomes”). The Spinster (or should she really be called the Knitter?) is a two-dimensional character at best, despite Gilly Tompkins’ best efforts to make her more fully realised.

This is a well-intentioned effort to show that women who come to success later in life have all the energy and passion required to imagine great futures for themselves, and to play hard to get them, even when swathed in tweeds, pearls and knitting. But it falls short in the attempt. Actresses of the calibre required to play characters like Christie and Rutherford should have opportunities to be let loose to show the full range of human passions, especially when rooted in childhood tragedy, and betrayals of art, love and friendship.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Craig Sugden

 


Murder, Margaret & Me

Churchill Theatre Bromley until 28th September then UK Tour continues

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
Chekhov In Moscow | ★★★★ | The Space | August 2019
Great Expectations | ★★★★ | The Geffrye Museum of the Home | August 2019
Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain Part Four | ★★★ | Apollo Theatre | August 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | Temple Church | August 2019
Queen Of The Mist | ★★★★ | Charing Cross Theatre | August 2019
Showtune | ★★★★ | Union Theatre | August 2019
The Time Of Our Lies | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2019
Heartbeat Of Home | ★★★★ | Piccadilly Theatre | September 2019
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story | ★★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | September 2019
The Bacchae | ★★★ | Bread & Roses Theatre | September 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Hound of The Baskervilles

★★★★

Abney Park

The Hound of The Baskervilles

Abney Park

Reviewed – 17th September 2019

★★★★

 

“one of the finest promenade productions to be seen for some time”

 

A wonderfully atmospheric and well-adapted new version of the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles proves that there’s no plays like Holmes when it comes to murder mysteries.

“One false step means certain death to man or beast – so tread carefully!” The warning given by one of the characters in the production could hardly be more appropriate for the audience who walk around Abney Park Cemetery as night falls in this clever and engaging promenade version from the 09 Lives company.

Director Lil Warren avoids tiresome clichés (there’s not a deerstalker in sight and no whiff of “Elementary, my dear Watson!”) and creates a thrilling reworking of the 1901 detective story with a freshness and sense of fun which would surely delight Conan Doyle himself.

Such is the ability of the actors that it’s easy to overlook the fact that there are only six of them. In a couple of cases there is a genuine murmur of surprise from the audience when they cotton on to the fact that the performer who disappeared down one twilit track has reappeared in another guise only seconds later.

It’s a good notion to have Conan Doyle (Angus Chisholm) narrate the story in each scene and lead the way in the movement around the park, as it leaves the other actors free to concentrate on the drama without having to worry about promenading practicalities. Chisholm gets the measure of the writer, who had an interest in the magical and mysterious, and there’s a twinkle in his eye when he declares “the game’s afoot!”

Giorgio Galassi is fantastic casting as Holmes, giving the well-known character a completely original take without feeling the need to draw any inspiration from Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone, or Benedict Cumberbatch. His is an arrogant and irritating consulting detective showing little patience with his companion and the hint of the actor’s Italian heritage adds a splendid touch of fiery Latin temperament to this most British of fictional creations.

Despite being the most famous – and oft-produced – Sherlock Holmes adventure the sleuth himself vanishes for the central part of the narrative, so Galassi also dons an outrageous moustache to play the Baskerville butler Barrymore.

Holmes’ absence means a lot hangs on Dr Watson and Gary Cain also resists copying others who have played the part of the diarist and companion. Instead we are shown a loyal sidekick who is not treated entirely kindly by his eccentric friend and who has more than a mind of his own.

Dan de la Motte is a suitably stiff upper lipped Mortimer but has some fun with the devious naturalist Stapleton who hides his own family secrets, while Andrew Phipps is a jovial Sir Henry Baskerville, whose family appears to be cursed by the legend of the diabolical hound.

Playing the two female roles is Sarah Warren – founder and artistic director of 09 Lives – who gives some welcome feminine strength to the feisty Beryl Stapleton and a sense of duty to the unfortunate Mrs Barrymore.

The piece is completed by its creepy sound design (Yvonne Gilbert), with a convincing hound occasionally heard howling in the trees and SLAY’s installation design, which allows us to be transported effortlessly from Baker Street to Baskerville Hall, Merripit House, Grimpen Mire and other locations in the Dartmoor setting, with each location perfectly chosen. We even glimpse two fierce red eyes of the hound peering through a Devon fog.

This Hound of the Baskervilles is a well-produced treat and is certainly one of the finest promenade productions to be seen for some time.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Terrill

 

 

The Hound of The Baskervilles

Abney Park until 29th September

 

 

 

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